9. Your Solution & Product/Service


With great problems come great solutions!

YOU ARE EXCITED about your solution. You expect the audience will be just as excited when they hear about it. If you pitch it well, they will be… at least for the duration of your pitch.

As you create this part of your pitch, keep in mind that you know the solution inside and out. You know about the problem in great detail. The audience likely knows far less. Thus, as you present your solution, make sure you are not making leaps of logic that baffle the audience. If you do that, they will stop to wonder how you jumped from step A to step B, and, in that moment, they will either stop listening to you or note the flaw and think less of your presentation.

RULE  19:
Avoid leaps of logic.

If you are pitching a technical solution, it is very important to know how much technological expertise the audience has. If the audience knows your market well, you can use some jargon and so present more quickly. If some of the audience members do not know the ins and outs of your market, you need to go slower and avoid or define all jargon words.

RULE  13:
Present in “English” rather than jargon.

While you might think that jargon and details will “wow” the audience, more likely than not it will leave them confused. Few investors will admit that they didn’t understand your presentation, and that will leave you wondering why those investors never followed up after the pitch. The same is true for potential customers, whose default answer to your ask for business is “no.”

To ensure your description is understandable, write out a script of what you are going to say about the solution. If writing is not your forte, first create the slides, record your presentation, and transcribe what you said. Either way, get the script in written form and then give it to someone unfamiliar with your field. Based on their questions, revise and rewrite it to make it as clear and concise as possible.

Ensibuuko—[The solution, first draft]

“In Uganda, the solution for rural farmers is the Savings and Credit Co-ops, known as SACCOS. They are typically organized by the farmers, who pool their savings and provide loans to the members. However, today, most of these organizations operate using paper forms and paperwork processes. The Ugandan government reports that, on average, $20,000 is lost per SACCO per year. That is $20,000 owned by those poor farmers, lost to inefficiencies, incompetence, and corruption. To fix these inefficiencies, Ensibuuko has developed the Mobile Banking and Information Software known as MOBIS. MOBIS moves the operations of the SACCOS into the cloud, making their transactions transparent to the members, providing text messages for every deposit and withdrawal, and integrating the accounts to the mobile money systems.”

Like the previous first-draft slides, this slide presents the facts with no emotion or storytelling. Once again, the words on the slides just repeat the words spoken by the presenter.

At this point, that error may seem obvious. It should be, but let me note that at least nine out of ten pitches I see in the “real world” suffer from this issue. They are designed to be read, not pitched. It is perfectly acceptable to have two versions of your pitch, one to share for people to read and another you use to present.

Back to this pitch. The fix needed here is to remember RULE 11: Every slide has one (and only one) purpose. More specifically, every slide should convey a single idea. If your solution is sufficiently complex that you need to describe multiple components—an entire system, etc.—then break that part of the presentation into separate slides. This may mean explaining parts of the problem in more detail, too, so that you can explain your solution to that part of the problem.

Ensibuuko—[The solution, second draft]

“In Uganda, the solution for rural farmers is the Savings and Credit Co-ops, known as SACCOS. They are typically organized by the farmers, who pool their savings and provide loans to the members. However, today, most of these organizations operate using paper and paperwork, which leads to losses from errors and corruption.”

“To modernize SACCOS, Ensibuuko has built MOBIS, the Mobile Banking and Information Software. MOBIS brings the SACCOS accounts into the cloud and makes those accounts accessible by mobile phone.”

“With MOBIS, every deposit comes with a text message and an updated balance that isn’t just written down on a paper ledger. Every deposit and loan repayment becomes part of a financial record that can be used by the farmers to show their good credit.”

The first slide focuses on the SACCOS. The image lets the audience visualize a paper-based transaction. The second slide then introduces the solution. It visually shows the modernized SACCO on the left and the happy farmer on the right. When presenting, the presenter can use that layout to gesture to the left and right to make it clear when he’s talking about a solution for SACCOS or a solution for farmers. The third slide is then all text, listing the top three benefits for the two sets of customers. Not the whole list of benefits, just the top three; with that text as large and simple as possible.

For a three- to five-minute pitch, that is sufficient for discussing the solution. For a ten-minute or longer pitch, there should be more details.

For web-based or app-based products, it is best to create a video that walks through the use of the product. And for when the video fails to run, have a series of screen shots that walk through the same use case. For a service-based business, walk the audience through the service from the customer’s point of view.

For services, if possible, create a visual walk-through via pictures.

RULE  21:
If you can present a visual “walk through,” do it.

For physical products, show pictures and bring samples to hand out for the audience to touch and feel. If your product doesn’t fit into your hand or if it doesn’t yet exist, create some 3D-printed models to show it off.

RULE  22:
If you have a physical object for “show and tell,” bring it.

Don’t lose the character

If, back in the problem slide, we had started telling this story of Bo the farmer, then at this point we should ideally still be talking about Bo here in the solution. When introducing the idea of the SACCOS, we’d talk about Bo’s specific SACCO and perhaps even introduce another character into the story, such as Mary, the head of that SACCO.

The point is that if we are telling a story of a specific character, then, like any good movie, we need to keep telling the story of that character through the end of the story.

This becomes more challenging to do as we work our way through the various topics.


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